People, Workspace

How workplaces have used evidence-based design

Axiom Workplaces

We all know the cost of refurbishing or embarking on a total office fitout brings certain challenges and risks to employee satisfaction and retention. But by having a workspace redesign with a specific empathic outcome, where the improvements to the workplace can be measured, you can substantially lessen those risks. With this in mind, it’s essential to understand the concept of evidence-based design.

Evidence-based design is the process of configuring your office around the culture of your organisation and the way you work, rather than forcing your team to work around an imposed design scheme. Employing evidence-based design could be the difference between a waste of time and resources, and an almost silver-bullet-like boost to productivity, employee satisfaction and staff retention.

Evidence-based design is the process of configuring your office around the culture of your organisation and the way you work. Click To Tweet

In a study conducted by business psychologists and wellbeing specialists, Robertson Cooper, the top five ‘most wanted’ elements in workplaces in Europe, the Middle East and Africa were:

  • Natural light (42%)
  • Quiet working space (22%)
  • Sea/water views (20%)
  • Live indoor plants (18%)
  • Bright colours (15%)

However, when it came to the actuality of their workplaces, 42 percent of respondents had no access to natural light, 55 percent worked in spaces that didn’t have any greenery at all, and seven percent of respondents didn’t have external windows in their primary work area.

Using evidence-based design, it would be safe to assume, from this survey, what matters most to these people is natural light and the opportunity to work quietly. Consequently, these companies would be wise to discuss how to better use available natural light and zones in the office with their workplace transformation partner as that is most likely to make their people happier.

Read more about Why Evidence-Based Workplace Design is the Way Forward

Example No.1 – Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) and Direct Line Group

Effective use of evidence-based design was demonstrated by UK-based management consultancy group Advanced Workplace Associates’ partnership with British Insurance giant Direct Line Group.

After experiencing a somewhat tumultuous period of ownership changes and de-mutualisation, the Direct Line Group wanted to move away from a ‘restrictive’, conservative corporate culture to one focused on innovation. They tasked AWA with an office redesign that reflected and reinforced this objective.

Despite possessing a wealth of experience in taking inspiring designs from the drawing board to reality, AWA concentrated exclusively on getting an in-depth understanding of Direct Line’s employees. To achieve this, they held workshops, conducted face-to-face interviews with staff to measure employee engagement and wellbeing, reviewed the building’s infrastructure and the company’s IT needs – just to name a few components of their assessment.

After this exhaustive review, AWA collated the hard data, which they then applied to the latest research on ‘Knowledge Worker Productivity’ (i.e. the productivity of people who think for a living). They identified six factors… proven to link to the productivity of organisations that depend on Knowledge Workers, to put forward a compelling science-backed proposition addressing workplace design, IT infrastructure, working practices and a cultural change template for Direct Line Group’s new workplace.

Example No. 2 – HDR

The Minneapolis architecture studio of global engineering and architecture firm HDR saw employees play a significant role in the redesign of their office when the organisation located to a new suite of buildings.

As part of the revised office layout, an architect and researcher at the company conducted a comprehensive study, including data and comments from the staff, to form a clear picture of what employees believed was necessary to make their space more productive and happy.

Researcher Bethany Friedow told Metropolis the goal of the focus group was to “understand more deeply what issues [the staff] were having in the current space, what was really working well and what people were anxious or excited about.”

She says the survey confirmed the concerns that arose among the focus group were office-wide concerns. The next step was to tailor the office – everything from its décor to its layout – to employee preference as much as possible without “over-designing” and risking staff retention.

While the re-design work at the studio is ongoing, the results have been significant, especially in a department where collaboration, discussion and creative thinking are essential. In follow-up surveys six months into the re-design, employees reported a greater sense of collaboration.

“People were commenting that they’re getting to know people and talking to people that they’ve been working with for years, but because they were separated physically, they just never interacted with,” Bethany Friedow says.

“So, I think that, in terms of that sense of collaboration, that has really increased in the new space.”


Want to see what Axiom is doing with offices to increase staff retention in Australia? Check out some examples of our work.


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